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Back on the Streets
One of the biggest complaints about Street Fighter III would be that it had an unbalanced roster. Most of the classics didn't make the cut and although the game had a myriad of interesting new characters, many agreed that not all of them are suitable for high level play. Tournament match-ups quickly became stale, with veterans going for the same fighters time and time again Super Street Fighter IV solves that problem by throwing in the old with the new. You've got classics like M. Bison, Sagat and Vega alongside Abel, a man with no past looking to defeat members of Shadaloo; El Fuerte, a luchador whose fighting skills are matched by his mad culinary skills; Rufus, an obese martial artist who specializes in kung fu and sees himself as Ken's rival and Crimson Viper, a spy with plenty of gadgets at her disposal. Of course, there's also Seth, a final boss who has an arsenal of stolen techniques as well as a few unlockable fan favorites which certainly add to the game's replay value.
Although single player Arcade Mode is a standard starting point for veterans and newbies alike, the real meat of the game lies in its online multiplayer mode. Just like any modern console fighting game worth its salt, you'll enjoy playing solo but having the ability to pit your skills against real people worldwide will be the reason you'll play for hours on end. Having said that, Capcom claims that Super Street Fighter IV features state of the art match making but in actuality, it leaves much to be desired. It's not uncommon to win a few matches only to be paired against players with exponentially higher PP (or, to put it simply, against epic-level players). The good news is that the system is setup so you earn so much more than you lose. If you want to win consistently, you just have to be willing to spend the time to get better.
The Legacy of a Great Game
Being a part of a long running fighting game franchise, Super Street Fighter IV pulls quite a few tricks from past iterations and incorporates just enough new options to offer truly compelling game play. At the heart of these innovations are some sweet special moves, namely, Super Combos, Focus Attacks and the Ultra Combo system. A Super Combo is your quintessential special move. Focus Attacks enable players to absorb the force from attacks and counter the hit with one of their own. This system adds a whole new dimension to the tired old system by serving as a safe guard against rigid combo patterns and encouraging competitors to fight smarter by rewarding an adaptive play style. The Ultra Combo on the other hand, is a stronger form of a character's Super Combo. Powered by the Revenge Gauge, this not only unleashes maximum damage but also changes the in-game camera to demonstrate just how much hurt you are inflicting on your opponent -- if the move connects, that is. Pulling these off properly will make you feel like a powerhouse and that in itself makes Super Street Fighter IV highly addictive. Again, it's online play that will maximize your enjoyment of the game. Presuming that you have a decent connection speed, you can count on the fact that things will work as it should.
Achieving Good Balance
Perhaps Capcom's greatest achievement when it comes to Super Street Fighter IV is its highly accessible control scheme. The six-button layout is perfect even for those who have not touched a fighting game since the advent of Street Fighter II. Command inputs are recognized with precision so linking combination moves are just downright easy. With their simplicity and split-second accuracy, counter-attacks have never been friendlier to new fighting game fans. Now, that's not to say that Super Street Fighter IV has been dumbed down, it's just leaner and meaner this time around. Newbies and veterans now have the chance to experiment and expand their repertoire because the core game play works flawlessly.
No matter how well-designed a fighting game system is, there's always going to be a few issues. For Super Street Fighter IV, the most obvious flaw would be the difficulty balance of the single player campaign. It doesn't matter what setting you go for, Seth will crush you. While a cheap final boss isn't exactly news on its own, the problem lies in the ridiculous difficulty gap between him and the rest of the rounds. The anime cut scenes also tend to leave a bad taste in the mouth. Maybe this is a matter of taste but the quality looked way off compared to the in engine graphics. Pair this with the horrible opening song as well as clunky menus and you've got a design problem in your hands.
You Can't Drop This
Nevertheless, should you still give Super Street Fighter IV a try? Absolutely. As long as you're willing to take the time to master it, this title's replay value is near infinite. Super Street Fighter IV has something to offer for all types of fighting game players. Those who are new will enjoy its accessible controls while intermediate to hardcore players will likely find the new system compelling. As a bonus, having a number of familiar characters, gives it a dose of nostalgic charm and the 60 FPS in engine graphics are nothing to scoff at either.